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Feature: Samuel Bark reveals ‘dark moment’ leading up to big win



Samuel Bark MMA OKTAGON 50 Sammon Decker Muay Thai

Samuel Bark is back on track after a challenging year.

The Swedish former WBC International Muay Thai champion – widely considered one of the top featherweight MMA prospects in Scandinavia – returned to action at this past weekend’s OKTAGON 50 event, defeating the promotion’s No. 8 ranked contender Vladimir Lengal by split decision following a closely-contested three-round bout.

In his first interview since Saturday, a fascinating tell-all conversation with Frontkick, Bark opens up on the happenings behind the scenes, reflecting on some of the madness and mental struggles that comes with the territory in this crazy fight game.

“There was something in the air for sure,” Bark says as he describes how tensions were rising between him and his opponent.

“This game is mad. You really have to be able to take control of your emotions, calm your mind and use that nervous energy as fuel and as a means to survive in there. And I’m proud of myself for managing to do so.”

– Samuel “Sammon Decker” Bark



Samuel Bark: “I have a secret weapon”

Coming into 2023, Bark was the most active MMA fighter in Sweden by far. He had put together a 8-1 record in just about 14 months, competing in a total of seven bouts in 2022 alone. At the time, he was riding a five-fight winning streak as he signed on the dotted line to make his debut in OKTAGON MMA, arguably the hottest promotion in Europe at the moment.

Fresh out of wins in Cage Warriors as well as at some of Sweden’s top MMA shows, Bark felt his UFC dream was within reach. The undefeated champion Losene Keita proved to be too tough of a challenge back in February though, as Bark lost his promotional debut by TKO in round three at OKTAGON 39.

Following the setback, a dedicated Bark worked on creating a new, upgraded style for several months, while simultaneously launching his own gym and teaching classes to make ends meet.

“I wasn’t really myself in the Keita fight, I just showed up but wasn’t all there and had an off night basically. It sucked. So I worked extra hard the next few months to elevate my game. Although I didn’t put on the best performance against Lengal in my opinion, it feels really good to be back in the win column after a tough fight against a worthy opponent,” Bark explains, adding:

“I want to use my hands more next time. I’ll mix in more boxing. I wanna show my real style. I have been working on a new striking style since the loss and have more to show. I’ve trained so much grappling and wrestling defense since shifting to MMA from Muay Thai. Now, all that training and experience from my fights makes me confident to box more without the fear of getting taken down.”

Bark’s takedown defense and counter-wrestling was definitely solid in the Lengal fight and the stand-up striker even threatened with submission attempts at some points during the bout.

You say that you want to box more now, but as your grappling keeps evolving, do you think we could see more of that side of your game too in future fights?

“For sure. I have a secret weapon. One day, I’ll submit someone with a calf-slicer. I’ll pull that one out of my sleeve when you least expect it.”

Samuel Bark Oktagon 50


“I had so many demons in my head”

Before the fight, Samuel Bark and Vladimir Lengal had a quite intense faceoff at the OKTAGON 50 weigh-ins. According to Bark, tensions had already been rising at that point.

“It got heated for real. I put my hands up because I didn’t want to let him get close,” Bark says, channeling his inner Chael Sonnen. “ I had said before the fight that he stood no chance, that he cuts so much weight that he looks sick, and so on and so forth. So that’s probably why he was riled up.”

As Bark continues to give his account of the lead-up, he reveals a pivotal moment in the locker room on fight night. That’s when the nerves of getting back in there and the negative thoughts of self-doubt started to take over.

“I had so many demons in my head and was really fighting against myself there for a second. I felt anxious and was about to give up completely. It got pretty dark for a moment. This game is mad. You really have to be able to take control of your emotions, calm your mind and use that nervous energy as fuel and as a means to survive in there. And I’m proud of myself for managing to do so.”

How did you manage to pull through?

“I just decided that my reinvented style would work and told myself time and time again that I would keep moving and take control of the fight. This is such a crazy game where one fight can change everything. The outcome of one fight can dictate if you have fans rallying for you to get a title shot, or if you have people calling for your retirement. One brutal knockout can make you go viral and catapult you into a new stratosphere, or potentially end your career depending on which side you’re on. I know most fighters are scared one way or another every time they step into the cage. You just have to be in charge of your own mind and recognize that fear but get out there and do it anyway.”

Bark further explains that he was approached by a supporter of his opponent Vladimir Lengal in the hallway before the fight, who was shouting at him.

“He was shouting expletives, ‘Vlad will kill you!’ and stuff like that. I’m not really sure who he was, some random guy. By then, I was already in my zone so I just turned away and simply ignored that guy. As I made my walkout, I started to feel really focused and confident. By the time I made it to the cage, I was switched on for sure. The sold-out OKTAGON events feel really massive. I’ve never fought on such big shows before. But once you’re in the cage, fully present, everything around you almost gets blurred as your only focus at that point is who’s in front of you.”


Targets The Ultimate Fighter 32

Now back in the win column and 9-2 in pro MMA, the future sure looks bright for Samuel Bark. Following his win at OKTAGON 50, “Sammon Decker” is currently ranked at No. 6 in the promotion’s featherweight rankings and he plans to keep climbing towards the title as he names No. 2 ranked Jakub Tichota as a potential next opponent.

“I want to fight again in February,” Bark says. “OKTAGON MMA is a great promotion, they’re putting on big shows and paying their fighters very well. So I’m happy to fight for them and I like my chances against some of these guys that they have ranked above me. Jakub Tichota for example.”

However, the UFC goal remains the same and having gathered a solid record at this point, he’s constantly looking for that one shot to compete in the world-leading octagon.

“I saw that they’re looking for featherweights for the upcoming The Ultimate Fighter 32, so that’s something I’m looking into for sure. A shot to prove myself in Dana White’s Contender Series would be cool too. I want to fight in the UFC. I know that I belong and I want a chance to prove it. I’m ready, I’m active and I’m always looking to finish my fights. I think Dana would like what I bring,” Bark says before we wrap up the interview.


Photo by Chris Önnerby

Quick facts about Samuel Bark:

  • Age: 31.
  • Record: 9-2 (5 wins by T/KO).
  • Weight class: Featherweight.
  • Nickname: Sammon Decker.
  • Fighting out of: Halmstad, Sweden.
  • Gym: Sammon Decker Gym
  • Style: Muay Thai, MMA, striking.
  • Notable wins in MMA: Tobias Harila, Vladimir Lengal.
  • Notable accomplishments: WBC International Muay Thai champion, Swedish Muay Thai. champion, 50-20 record in Muay Thai/K1.

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